FL Survivors to Face Lawamakers 02/21 06:12
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) -- Students who survived the Florida school shooting
began a journey Tuesday to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to prevent
another massacre, but within hours the gun-friendly Legislature had effectively
halted any possibility of banning assault-style rifles like the one used in the
The legislative action further energized the teens as they prepared to
confront legislators who have quashed gun-control efforts for decades in a
state where 1.3 million people have concealed carry permits.
"They're voting to have shootings continually happen. These people who voted
down the bill haven't experienced what we did. I want to say to them, 'It could
be you,'" 16-year-old Noah Kaufman said as he made the 400-mile (640-kilometer)
trip to Tallahassee.
Three buses carried 100 students who, in the aftermath of the attack that
killed 17 people, want to revive the gun-control movement. The teens carried
sleeping bags and pillows and hugged their parents as they departed, many
wearing burgundy T-shirts in their school colors.
They spent the seven-hour ride checking their phones, watching videos and
reading comments on social media about the shooting, some of which accused them
of being liberal pawns.
About 500 Leon High School students and parents applauded as the students
got off the bus from Broward County.
Stoneman Douglas senior Diego Pfeiffer thanked his Tallahassee counterparts
as a group of Broward County students stood behind him on the school steps.
"This isn't about school shootings. This isn't about violence anymore. This
is about hope. This is about moving forward," Pfeiffer told the crowd.
As the grieving Florida students demanded action on guns, President Donald
Trump on Tuesday directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like
the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas massacre. It was a
small sign of movement on the gun violence issue that has long tied Washington
"We must do more to protect our children," said Trump, a strong and vocal
supporter of gun rights. He added that his administration was working hard to
respond to the Florida rampage.
Meanwhile at the Florida Statehouse, a Democratic representative asked for a
procedural move that would have allowed the Republican-controlled House to
consider a ban on large-capacity magazines and assault-style rifles such as the
AR-15 that was wielded by the suspect, Nikolas Cruz.
The bill had been assigned to three committees but was not scheduled for a
hearing. The House quickly nixed the Democratic motion. The vote broke down
along party lines, and Republicans criticized Democrats for forcing the vote.
Because the committees will not meet again before the legislative session
ends March 9, the move essentially extinguishes hope that lawmakers would vote
on any sweeping measures to restrict assault rifles, although other proposals
could still be considered.
"No one in the world with the slightest little hint of a soul isn't moved by
this tragedy," Republican strategist Rick Wilson said. "The discussion has to
be a longer, bigger and broader discussion."
Lizzie Eaton, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spent the
day lobbying senators of both parties and concluded that lawmakers were "just
not listening to us."
The vote was "heartbreaking," she said. "But we're not going to stop."
The students planned to hold a rally Wednesday to put more pressure on the
"I really think they are going to hear us out," said Chris Grady, a high
school senior aboard the bus.
The Feb. 14 attack initially appeared to overcome the resistance of some in
the state's political leadership, which has rebuffed gun restrictions since
Republicans took control of both the governor's office and the Legislature in
1999. However, many members of the party still have strong resistance to any
Republican leaders in the House and Senate say they will consider raising
age restrictions for gun purchases and temporarily revoking someone's guns if
that person is deemed a threat to others. Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican,
convened groups assigned to propose measures for protecting schools from gun
Lawmakers will probably say that getting a new bill passed is nearly
impossible with only two and a half weeks left in the legislative session. Some
lawmakers who are thinking of running on a statewide ticket are mindful of
their sensitive positions, since gun owners make up huge voting blocs in some
parts of the state, especially the Panhandle.
Wilson said he knows the students "want something to happen," and they need
"a moment to come and make their case."
But, he said, "the thought that you get to wave a wand and change the law is
something that is probably going to collide with reality."
The Parkland students also plan to meet Wednesday with top legislative
leaders, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe
Florida has a reputation for expanding gun rights. Negron sponsored a 2011
bill that Scott signed into law that banned cities and counties from regulating
gun and ammunition sales.
Authorities said Cruz, 19, had a string of run-ins with school authorities
that ended with his expulsion. Police were repeatedly called to his house
throughout his childhood. His lawyers said there were many warning signs that
he was mentally unstable and potentially violent. Yet he legally purchased a
The Senate is also considering boosting spending on mental health programs
for schools and giving law-enforcement greater power to involuntarily hold
someone considered a danger to themselves. The chamber will also look at a
proposal to deputize a teacher or someone else at school so they are authorized
to have a gun.
Kyle Kashuv, a 16-year-old student at the high school, said he was pro-gun
prior to the shooting.
"I had no issue with anyone having a gun of any caliber," said Kashuv, as he
rode in the bus to Tallahassee. "I was all for it. But after the situation, I
realized we have some issues in our society and it has to be addressed.
The fact that someone who was so steadfast in support of gun rights now
acknowledges the need for changes "really shows how important what we're doing
is," he said.